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The festival that COVID couldn't kill: Bluesfest vows third time lucky in October


Bluesfest will rise from its eleventh-hour cancellation at Easter to be held on 1 to 4 October with a stellar  Australian artist line up.

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“We’re coming back,” Bluesfest promoter Peter Noble said today.

In April, music fans turning up on the opening day of the Byron Bay Bluesfest were turned away when NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard axed the festival at the last minute. That followed an outbreak of a highly infectious coronavirus variant which was transmitted in the local area when an infected nurse attended a hen’s party in Byron Bay.

The cancellation was estimated to have cost the local economy at least $100 million and was to have been the first major festival in Australia, and the world, since last summer’s pandemic-induced mass cancellations and shutdowns.

“We were unceremoniously dumped,” Noble told ABC Gold Coast.

“We’ve all come through the trauma. We were shellshocked after what occurred,” he said.

“But we’ve got all the guys returning except for two artists, who will be coming next Easter, and we’ve been able to replace them with two of Australia’s biggest ever artists.”

The festival, when it was to have been held at Easter, was billed as the “beacon of hope” for struggling musicians and performers with the live music and arts sector decimated by the impacts of coronavirus outbreaks.

Bluesfest was also cancelled in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, making the revived October event third time lucky for organisers.

Noble said organisers were working with the NSW State Government to support events that were “having a go” during the pandemic.

“It will lead Australia in protecting events going forward,” he said.

It comes as the Queensland Government also injected extra funding into its Arts and Cultural Recovery package with $1.3 million in new money for 21 live music venues across the state.

Fans and Bluesfest ticket holders were alerted late Wednesday that the festival was returning on new dates.

“It’s finally here! The announcement you have all been waiting very patiently for,” Bluesfest Byron Bay posted.

“Bluesfest 2021 will be back this year over the October long weekend – Friday, 1st of October to Monday, 4th of October.”

The April festival was headlined by an all-Australian lineup including Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana, John Butler, Kasey Chambers, The Cat Empire and Hussy Hicks.

Organisers said they had “something special in store” for those who had bought five-day season tickets for the April event and would roll their tickets over to October.

“The Easter event was almost sold out… and with a rollover of patrons, plus only limited availability, we expect to see the same for this new event,” organisers said.

“For those who wish to buy, be sure to keep an eye out for our announcement and get in quick!

“At this time, all current Bluesfest 2021 ticketholders will receive official communication from Moshtix and will be given information on how to roll over to the new event, with the option to request a refund remaining available.”

In April, Bluesfest was to have operated with a capacity of 16,500 people daily over its five days, with three performance stages, plus camping. Operators had imposed limits of 50 per cent on normal capacity and production in what was then the first-of-its kind COVID-19 Safety Plan for the music industry.

However, eased restrictions may apply in October meaning festival organisers may be able to offer a larger ticket release.

Noble said the last time Bluesfest ran without restrictions in 2019, it brought $133 million to the region and created 858 full-time jobs.

“That’s what major events do. Not only do we bring great arts to the region, we bring wealth,” he said.

“Our region was shutdown last Easter, people lost a lot of money.  We are very proud to be coming back and bringing the arts and wealth back.”


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